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Frat Pack Tribute Movie Review: The Locusts

Review by Amy Gilbert

Every once in awhile you come across a period movie that isn’t looking to be one, but sets the stage for a good story with a lot at stake. Such is this 1997 indie drama The Locusts, set sometime in 1960’s Kansas. The movie doesn’t try too hard, or overstate the period aspect of the film too much, it just is. This is the vehicle in which Vince Vaughn, Jeremy Davies and Ashley Judd use showcase their excellent acting abilities.

The basic premise of the story involves handsome drifter Clay (Vince Vaughn) who happens into town with just a few dollars in his pocket and looking for work. He hooks up with a couple of locals, Kitty (Ashley Judd) and Earl (Paul Rudd) at a bar who direct him to the local widow Delilah (Kate Capshaw) who has a reputation for giving young handsome guys work. As good southern hospitality of the time dictates, she not only gives him a job, but takes him on as a boarder complete with meals and clothing. Here Clay befriends Flyboy (Jeremy Davies), the widow’s 21 year old son. Flyboy had been institutionalized since he was thirteen years old and since his recent return home, has resolved to being his mothers cook and silent servant, living in his boyhood tree house. Clay takes it upon himself to bring Flyboy out of his shell and teach him the ways of being a man, among other things, quoting “The Rules” to him. This brings reactions from his mother and the locals, most who don’t even realize Flyboy can talk. Clay learns the ropes of running a feed lot and also becomes privy to the family skeletons. Clay and Flyboy ponder their lives lying on their backs under a tree listening to the sounds of “The Locusts”.

The budding relationship with the local girl Kitty is fun and risqué for the time. Kitty has a winning smile and a pretension for injuring Clay accidentally. We also discover Clay has secrets of his own. Both Clay and the Delilah have circumstances in their pasts that are better left unknown and unexplained. There were lots of smoking scenes, old cars, and wardrobes that really looked the part. Most of the women’s clothing appeared handmade, as I’m sure was the case in the 60’s.

The movie even had a few laugh-out-loud moments… none of which are actually Vince’s lines, but Vince’s fans will love his tank tops, the Ashley Judd interactions and the familiar supportive friend role he’s so good at. Paul Rudd plays a local ranch hand Earl and does an outstanding job with what he’s given. (Honestly, I watched the entire movie without recognizing him and finally saw his name in the credits. What? Apparently, I suffer from Clark Kent disease.)

The film does have a few clichés. Perhaps it’s the not-so-subtle spider in it’s web in the opening scene and the “Fly” boy character name, obviously caught in her web. Or it could be the fact that from the first time you see handsome drifter meet local widow you know they have mysterious pasts are going to end up in the sack, it’s just a matter of how and why.

All these things really didn't bother me - you had a good story, interesting characters, mystery, light humor, skin, complicated relationships, sex scenes; all the "fixin's" for a good drama, but Kate Capshaw never quite convinced me she was the bitter, miserable and manipulative widow she was playing. Overall however, I feel this is a great and completely under appreciated independent movie which (unlike most independent films) actually had an ending, and a good one.

****

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